How to Build a More Inclusive Technical Team

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Are you struggling to attract fresh, enthusiastic talent for technical positions in your company? Here are four ways to increase your organization’s inclusivity and diversity and open the doors to formerly unrecognized candidates with qualifications that may seem out-of-the-box.

Don’t let traditional education “requirements” block your best candidates

Traditional learning isn’t the only way to gain knowledge and excel — especially in technical roles. Advances in technology best practices and methodology happens so quickly that classroom-imparted information can become obsolete quickly. Self-directed learning and hands-on work is often the only way to stay at the real leading edge of the technical space.

Make your hiring ads focus on skills both hard and soft — instead of arbitrary requirements like a specific degree or school. Keep such items in the “nice to have” column instead, and describe your ideal candidate as having a committed work ethic, innovative mind and ability to thrive in an environment focused on forward movement in all areas.

There are many alternative forms of learning currently available to underserved populations. Don’t bypass informal education or hands-on experience in specific pertinent areas relevant to your open position simply because the applicant doesn’t tick traditional résumé boxes. Tech is where “new collar workers” shine!

Instead, educate yourself about the skills and knowledge that can be gleaned from opportunities presented by Ed.X (free university courses), Google, YouTube, Hackbright Academy, and other alternative methods of education. Clarify that your company values self-motivated learners. Note that opportunities exist for continued learning (preferably on the company dime) at your own organization.

Employees are more likely to stay at a company that provides opportunities for learning and career development. This is one of the most significant measures you have to build a diverse and highly talented technical team. When you embrace those who are self-driven learners and provide them with an opportunity for continued learning, retention becomes a matter of course.

Watch for unconscious and personal bias in your interview process

Even the most diligent hiring managers and interviewers can be swayed by unconscious and personal bias. Despite the best of intentions, bias can creep into an interview process and result in dismissing someone based on education history, choice of school, residential address, age, personal style, skin color, accent or ethnicity of a name.

To mitigate the risk of bias, ask someone wholly removed from the hiring process to “blind” incoming applications, removing all identifying information and reducing each application to bare bones before submitting them for initial review. During the interview, guard against biases by keeping “best candidate for the job, regardless of all else” at the forefront of your mind.

Consider the language you use when taking notes, and strive to keep it free and clear of any bias. Are you noting someone is charismatic instead of knowledgeable, or articulate instead of skilled? Remember, not every applicant will have had the same access to what is commonly known as “job interview skills,” and evaluating applicants by the descriptor “professional” as applied to dress, or speech patterns can be problematic.

Allow candidates to interview you as well; this is also the job’s audition to see if it is right for them. Welcome questions about the diversity and inclusivity of your workplace, and be prepared to answer such questions in detail.

Utilize your existing tech team’s assistance in selecting the best candidate

The people currently doing similar technical jobs in your organization should be your best ambassadors. If they aren’t, you may be missing the mark internally. Utilize the knowledge and experience of those who will be joined or replaced by new hires when identifying those who would be a good fit for your growing team.

Remember, your existing employees are not only aware of their personal strengths but their weaknesses as well. Including them in the process is an ideal way to bring in new hires who fill knowledge or skill gaps, making the entire team stronger and better able to face new challenges. Ask your employees where there’s a hole to fill concerning knowledge or experience, and seek candidates that match.

The same goes for the candidate meeting the existing team is important to more than 80% of millennials interviewing for a position. Allowing a meet and greet in a relaxed environment where candidates have an opportunity to talk shop with current employees can help close the deal when filling a position within a closely-knit team.

Use technology to identify and attract top talent

You’re a company trying to attract tech talent, so what could make more sense than the use technology to find and draw in your most suitable and diverse candidates? Technology can be less prone to bias (depending on programming), so engage with potential hires by leveraging technology and meet them where they live. Effective ways to use technology to draw in the tech-savvy include:

  • A mobile career site to pique the interest of those not quite ready to jump into job interviews by making them aware of your company
  • A recruiting funnel that gives you visibility into where you are gaining ground and where your system is failing to keep great candidates engaged
  • Algorithms that help you group shortlisted candidates and match them with the skills and abilities you need most
  • Automated workflows that keep highly valuable and diverse candidates engaged and moving through the hiring process

Following these guidelines can help you not only hire the best person for your open technical position but retain them long term.